Ohio History Journal

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Economic Issues in Ohio's

Politics During the

Recession of 1857-1858



Historians are just beginning to integrate the study of local and state

issues with the study of national issues in American politics. For some

periods, federal issues are so important and interesting that state history

tends to be reduced to a batch of mere case studies detailing the local

impact of great national questions. One period suffering acutely from

such neglect is the 1850s. Recently, however, state and local history

has been given new prominence by the challenging work of ethnocultural

historians on popular voting behavior. Professor Ronald P. Formisano

has produced a rich analysis of the emergence of Michigan's Republican

party, and Professor Michael F. Holt stresses the influence of local

rivalries, policies, and anxieties in the shaping of a Republican coalition

in Pittsburgh.' Banking issues have been ably discussed for the Old

Northwest by William G. Shade, and Professor Holt has put forward

a provocative interpretative synthesis of the impact of state issues on

antebellum politics.2 At present, however, the amount of published

literature on the interaction between local, state, and federal issues in

politics in the 1850s is small, but growing.3 This article seeks to add to

that literature.



B. W. Collins is Lecturer in Modern History, The University of Glasgow, Scotland.


1. The general argument for such an approach was put in Joel H. Silbey, The

Transformation of American Politics, 1840-1860 (Englewood Cliffs, 1967), 1-34;

Ronald P. Formisano, The Birth of Mass Political Parties: Michigan, 1827-1861

(Princeton, 1971); Michael F. Holt, Forging a Majority: The Formation of the

Republican Party in Pittsburgh, 1848-1860 (New Haven, 1969); Frederick C. Luebke

(ed.), Ethnic Voters and the Election of Lincoln (Lincoln, 1971).

2. William G. Shade, Banks or No Banks: The Money Issue in Western Politics,

1832-1865 (Detroit, 1972); Michael F. Holt, The Political Crisis of the 1850s (New

York, 1978). For the older view that traditional party issues disappeared during 1850s

see, for Ohio during Chase's governorship, Albert B. Hart, Salmon Portland Chase

(Boston and New York, 1899), 149, 157-76.

3. William J. Evitts, A Matter of Allegiances: Maryland from 1850 to 1861

(Baltimore, 1974); J. Mills Thornton, III, Politics and Power in a Slave Society:

Alabama, 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge, 1978); Kevin Sweeney, "Rum, Romanism, Repre-

sentation, and Reform: Coalition Politics in Massachusetts, 1847-1853," Civil War

History, XXII (1976), 116-37; Dale Baum, "Know-Nothingism and the Republican